JEDDAH/CHICAGO: King Salman said on Thursday he was proud of Saudi Arabia’s response to the coronavirus pandemic in an address to mark the start of Ramadan.
“We are living in an extreme situation that is affecting all of humanity,” the king said in a speech delivered by the Kingdom’s acting Minister of Media, Majid Al-Qasabi.
He added that Saudi Arabia must continue to work hard in “this difficult time” and that he was pained to see that prayers would not take place in mosques during the holy month due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The speech was made shortly after the Supreme Court announced that Ramadan 2020 will start on Friday.
During Ramadan, the Kingdom will ease the lockdown from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Restaurants, except food trucks and catering, will be allowed to operate delivery and pickup services from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. after meeting health requirements.
Saudi Ambassador to the US, Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud, stressed the importance of remembering the “disabled members of our communities worldwide and making sure their needs were met during this crisis.”
Addressing the Future Investment Initiative’s first digital event in Riyadh, she said: “One of the things that breaks my heart is that we’ve looked at the containment of this virus without looking at the aggregated data of the individuals with disabilities.”
A total of 1,158 new coronavirus were recorded in the Kingdom on Thursday, 15 percent of which were Saudi and 85 percent expats, bringing the total number of cases in Saudi Arabia to 13,930.
There have been 113 new recoveries, taking the total number to 1,925, while seven new deaths had been reported, raising the death toll to 121.
Countries benefiting from the “Awda” initiative (Return), where foreign nationals can apply through the Absher service to go home, are Egypt, Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
In Egypt, the UAE and Jordan, Ramdan begins on Friday while, Oman said the fasting month will begin on Saturday.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered greetings to Muslims worldwide on the start of Ramadan.
Pompeo said as part of efforts to contain the virus, the State Department will not host local iftars at embassies and offices.
“On behalf of the American people, I extend my best wishes to Muslim communities in the United States and around the world as they mark the start of the holy month of Ramadan,” he added.
“We urge all governments and communities to use this time to focus on service and unity, to keep in mind the health and safety of the most vulnerable and the marginalized as we continue to fight to stop the COVID-19 crisis,” he added.